Late rally lifts Golden Eagles over Lipscomb in home opener

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tacarra Hayes scored 10 of her 16 points in the final five minutes and Simone Rutledge had a double-double with career-highs of 14 points and 14 rebounds to lead Tennessee Tech to a 73-65 women’s basketball victory Monday night over Lipscomb University in the Eblen Center.

The two sophomores keyed a late comeback by the Golden Eagles (2-4), who erased a five-point deficit with a 9-0 run late in the contest. It was Tech’s first home game of the year after opening with a five-game road stretch.

Lipscomb (2-6) lost to its fourth Ohio Valley Conference foe this season.

Tech had great numbers in some key areas. The Golden Eagles had just 11 turnovers in the game and owned a 49-31 advantage in rebounds.

Hayes finished with a game-high 16 points with four rebounds. Rutledge grabbed 11 offensive rebounds on her way to the 14-14 performance, and freshman Kellie Cook also scored 14. Sophomore Krystal Stirrup added nine points and seven rebounds for the Golden Eagles.

Jenna Bartsokas led Lipscomb with 14 points and Leah McAlister also reached double digits with 12. Valerie Bronson had nine points and five rebounds, while Chelsea McMeans had eight points and seven rebounds.

Down by five, 61-56, the Golden Eagles took control, putting together a 9-0 run to burst back on top. It started with a basket by Kellie Cook, and a 3-pointer by Hayes tied the contest.

Hayes followed with a layup, and Simone Rutledge added a left-handed layup for a 65-61 Golden Eagle lead. Hayes made two more layups in the next minute as Tech’s lead grew to eight points, 69-63, with just under two minutes to play.

A tip-in by Valerie Bronson at the buzzer accounted for the final margin.

Tech’s largest lead of the first half was a 10-point advantage, coming at 11:23 when Kylie Cook hit a jumper to make it 21-11. The Bisons answered with a 13-3 run to knot the game at 24-24, and it was still tied at 34-34 just before halftime when Katy Cooke was fouled. She made both free throws with 2.4 seconds to play to send the Golden Eagles into the break with a two-point lead.

Eight different Lipscomb players scored points in the first half and seven Golden Eagles were involved in the scoring as both teams exhibited balance on offense.

Lipscomb shot 50 percent (13-for-26) in the first half including 40 percent (4-for-10) from long range. Tech made 38.2 percent (13-for-34) in the opening half including 3-for-10 from beyond the arc.

The Lady Bisons hit 40.6 percent in the second half, finishing the game at 44.8 percent (26-for-58). That included 7-for-23 from long distance.

The Golden Eagles hit 42.9 percent in the second half and wrapped up with a 40.6 percent (28-for-69) mark. Tech was 4-for-16 from long range.

The Golden Eagles head out on the road this weekend to open Ohio Valley Conference play, visiting Jacksonville State Saturday for a 2 p.m. contest.